According to the research in a book I’m reading called Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, an unlikely school in Naperville Illinois is one of the fittest AND most academically advanced schools in North America. They attribute their academic success to the introduction of what they called “zero hour” – a physical fitness program that every student needs to do every morning. The way it works is that students do whatever activity they enjoy that gets their heart rate above 80-90% of their maximum heart rate.
A case study in the book speaks specifically of a little girl named Michelle who kept coming in last on the track and was the inspiration behind the idea of Zero Hour. Being the slowest in the class, the coach would have normally scolded Michelle – berating and embarrassing her in front of her peers. But when the coach examined her heart rate, he saw that it was off the chart – impressive even for a trained athlete! So he gave her an A+ because, even though she was the slowest in the class, her heart rate indicated that she had actually outperformed all her peers.
When I apply this to the work environment, I wonder if the performance measurement is essentially the same: heart rate. It would be incredibly destructive to a person’s heart (the desire to try) if they are berated and embarrassed in front of their colleagues. Just as heart rate is more difficult to measure than speed and endurance, a person’s desire to serve in a workplace is more difficult to measure than their output. And it’s often misunderstood.
For a team to really thrive and be sustainable, everyone’s DESIRE needs to be positive and healthy – and that simply won’t happen by applying negative force. Everyone has different backgrounds and experience and, whether it is done consciously or not, comparisons and competition is likely to destroy cohesion and teamwork and create more stress on managers.
Similarly, monitoring our own heart rate and trying to keep it up despite stress and pressure is very challenging. But it is ultimately very rewarding as we grow stronger, wiser, and more equipped for bigger challenges. Affirmation is rare in many environments so holding on to the little that does occur is strengthening and motivating.